Jeffords Introduces Bill to Protect Great Apes
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords (R. Vt.), today introduced legislation to assist in the conservation of great apes and attempt to halt the illegal trade in bushmeat the meat of wild animals including great apes. "The Great Ape Conservation Act of 1999" would provide support and financial resources for the conservation programs of countries within the range of great apes, and projects of persons with demonstrated expertise in the conservation of great apes. He was eloquent on its behalf.
Great apes, as defined in the legislation, refer to chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, or orangutans. Great ape populations are declining, to the point that the longterm survival of the species in the wild are in jeopardy. Among the threats to great apes, in addition to habitat loss, are population fragmentation, hunting for the bushmeat trade, and live capture.
"The consumption of ape meat not only threatens ape populations, but poses severe health risks to humans," said Jeffords. "Human contraction of many viruses, including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been linked to the slaughter and consumption of apes. With the loss of ape populations, comes the loss of critical medical knowledge that can be obtained through simple, noninvasive research on wild populations."
Jeffords' bill is modeled after his highly successful African and Asian Elephant Conservation Act, and Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act. The legislation will authorize up to $5 million per year to fund various projects to aid in the preservation of the endangered great apes.
"It is my firm belief that unless we work together to change attitudes at all levels from world leaders to the consumers of illegal bushmeat there will be no viable populations of great apes in the wild within 50 years," said Dr. Jane Goodall, world famous ethologist, whose landmark work with chimpanzees first began in Tanzania in 1957. She has been a longtime advocate for great ape conservation and in 1977 founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation, to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees.
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